I'd previously outlined the many online wares available for the three major consoles. Here, I'd like to review my current favorite: Pac-Man: Championship Edition.
Now, this may be blasphemy around here, but I was never a big fan of the original. This isn't to say that I disliked it — I liked it just fine — it's just that for me, it was nothing more than an occasional five-minute diversion. Dodge the ghosts, eat the pellets, eat the power pellets for a bit of revenge, and repeat: quick cheap fun while you're waiting for your food at the local recreation center, and that's about it.
Pac-Man: Championship Edition changes all that. The game is still simple fun, but by making a few changes, it's also added levels of depth for those who really want to get into it.
What changes are those?
- Evolving levels. Instead of eating all of the pellets to proceed to the next level, the level morphs as you eat pellets. Levels are split into a left side and a right side. Clear all the pellets on one side, and a piece of fruit will appear on the opposite side. Eat the fruit, and the cleared side will refresh with a new layout, more pellets, and maybe some power pellets. No pesky level transitions to interrupt the action.
- Adaptable difficulty. The longer you stay alive, the faster everything gets; die, and the speed slows down a bit.
- New scoring system. Eat many pellets without dying to increase the points given per pellet. Chain power pellets together (eat the next power pellet before the first one runs out) to gain more points with each consecutive ghost eaten. Eat a lot of fruit to unlock higher point fruit.
- Time limit. The goal is no longer to last as long as possible, but to get as many points as possible within the allotted time, thus encouraging more aggressive play and maing the experience that much more exciting.
- Five additional modes, each with a different level style and time limit. The standard Championship Mode has a wide variety of level designs and a five-minute time limit. There's also a speedway mode (five-minute time limit, long straightways, all sprites are on maximum speed all the time); a dark mode (10 minutes, only the walls immediately around Pac-Man & the ghosts are lit up); feast and famine (the stages go back and forth from having a ton of power pellets to having none); small to big (10 minutes, stages start out confined and steadily become more open); and variety (10 minutes, variety of stage designs).
Throw in some subtly enhanced visuals & audio (improved but with plenty of retro appeal) and online leaderboards to track your scores, and you have a game that appeals to both casual and hardcore gamers. The casual gamer will enjoy trying out the different modes and just trying to survive for the entire time limit, whle the hardcore gamer will spend hours mastering the different modes, trying out new strategies (do I focus on ghost chains or try to clear the pellets as fast as possible? focus on one side of the screen or both sides equally?), and trying to get the best scores on the worldwide leaderboards. Pac-Man: Championship Edition is the perfect example of how you successfully update a classic game. At a mere $10 to download, there's no excuse not to buy it if you own an Xbox 360 and if you don't already own an Xbox 360, it's a good incentive to get one. It's easily one of my picks for one of the top 10 best games of 2007.